On Tuesday nights, a swingin’ hot spot featuring food, drinks and many of the greatest hits of the last 60 years opens up on Jog Road in Boynton Beach.
It’s at a Dunkin’ Donuts.
A little more than two months ago, a couple of retirees who had made the Dunkin’ a frequent lunch spot for their “Florida Retired Old Men and Women Eating Out” group pitched the idea of weeknight karaoke to the franchise owner, Craig Rader.
They’d come to the right Dunkin’. Rader had a soft spot for fun stunts – he’d brought the Florida Panthers cheerleaders out for the location’s grand opening.
“I try to go over the top with everything, to make it fun,” he said.
Rader bought the karaoke machine, which lets performers swipe through an iPad of available songs that includes crowd pleasers for the young and old – “Sweet Caroline,” “My Girl,” “YMCA” – as well as more recent hits from the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and John Legend.
“It may not bring more sales in, but it’s fun, it’s cute,” Rader said.
It does, however, bring crowds. On a busy Tuesday, the Dunkin’ will be standing-room-only as singers of all ages belt out Frank Sinatra and Lady Gaga. Even on slower evenings, most tables fill up around 8:30.
The early karaoke performers are mostly FROMEOs – the Dunkin’ lunchtime regulars – or members of Rader’s family. He and his father co-own the Jog Road Dunkin’, and his mother Gloria and aunt Theresa are there just about every week.
Recent high school graduates Caroline McGinley, Skyler Woodall and Macy Etchison stumbled onto Dunkin’ Karaoke one evening after school and stuck around to sing a few bars. They come back every week, and are always trying to recruit friends to join.
“They’re like, ‘Oh we’ll come, we’ll come’ and they don’t show up,” McGinley said of her friends. “They don’t believe us when we say it’s such a good time.”
The girls are affectionately known as The Dixie Chicks, a moniker given to them by FROMEO and karaoke emcee Stan Baron. Baron himself rarely sings.
“I can tell a joke now and then, so I keep it in between singers,” he said.
Theresa Rader, easy to pick out in the crowd because of her purple hair and shirts to match, is also not much of a singer.
“Even my shower shakes when I sing,” she quipped.
Instead, she loves to “wiggle her tush” and dance along to “the latest greatest singers” – Beyonce, Lady Gaga and P!nk are particular favorites.
The Dixie Chicks usually plan their song selections accordingly.
“This one’s for you, Theresa,” Etchison said as they queued up “Single Ladies” by Beyonce.
Karaoke officially runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., though the Raders start setting up closer to 6 and people start trickling in around 7.
“It starts out slow at the beginning,” said Theresa Rader. “Seven o’clock is really early – people are still finishing their dinner.”
Turnout among some of the regulars has been down in the last few weeks as more snowbirds – including Ziggy Galit, one of the original FROMEOs to suggest karaoke – return north, and as year-round residents miss a week here and there for grandkids’ graduations, vacations and other family commitments.
Newcomers, including friends brought in by the Dixie Chicks and the FROMEOs as well as coffee-seeking patrons who find the party by accident, have been filling in the gaps.
They don’t have a lot of competition on Tuesday nights. Littman said singing at Dunkin’ is much better than going to bed early, or waiting up to hit the Early Bird Special.
It’s not just the lack of other options, though. For regulars, and newcomers, it’s hard to compete with Tuesday night karaoke with easy access to doughnuts, coffee and ice cream.
“We have a ball here every Tuesday night,” said Baron. “We certainly do.”
Dunkin’ Karaoke takes place at 8324 Jog Road, Boynton Beach, 33437. For more information, call Ziggy Galit at 201-362-9400.